The market for low-cost, iPad alternatives has erupted with a host of entries into the space in the last year ushered in by the highly functional Amazon Kindle Fire and reaching a climax with the Nexus 7 tablet from Google and ASUS. Nexbook enters the fray with an 8″ tablet dubbed the Nextbook Premium 8SE (NEXT8P12) boasting some impressive capabilities, but falling short of reaching in reaching its goal in most cases.
The Premium 8SE is powered by a Rockchip RK2918 chipset running at 1GHz and utilizing 512MB of DDR3 RAM. Internal storage is a paltry 4GB however this is offset by featuring a MicroSD slot supporting up to 32GB SDHC cards. WiFi is on board as well as a 3.5mm audio jack, micro USB or charging and a front facing camera. The device weights about 1.21lbs and feels light in your hands. Charging the device is possible only by the provided 5VDC wall adapter, attempting to charge via microUSB does nothing, this is surely disappointing as well as you can’t use a laptop to charge the device when away from a socket.
One of the biggest marketing points of the Premium 8SE is the 8″ screen which is certainly a joy to look at, but can’t really compete with higher end screens on devices like the iPad and smartphones like the Galaxy Nexus, the clarity of picture and overall pop of the screen is missing from the Premium 8.
Being a competitor to the Fire and aforementioned tables means that the Premium 8SE has opted to join forces with Barnes & Noble to offer eBooks from the Nook store rather than any other service. This integration is nice, however having used a Kindle for so long and its deep integration into your Amazon account, its a jarring change.
One change that will have you quickly searching for alternatives is the ability to easily install applications on the device. Google is notorious for not allowing the Play store to be distributed on tablets, only phones, the included app store, GetJar, simply does not have the variety and easy of easy that a fully integrated product like iTunes or the Play store would have on this device, or the Amazon App Store when properly installed. GetJar features some big name applications that you would expect to find proliferated everywhere, however the interface is not very well done and the number of applications is disappointing. After using the unit for a number of weeks I’ve relied solely on the Amazon Appstore with is easily installed and works perfectly.
Powered by Google’s Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) operating system the Premium 8SE has all the features you’d come to expect, slick menus with no OEM user interface layered on top of it. Everything has the sweet tinge of blue to it and a futuristic sound, its beautiful, its just disappointing that the Premium 8′s specs are hardly capable of running it.
While the tablet can do everything you throw at it: listen to music, browse the web, view MPEG-4 movies, etc. sometimes it does so much at the chagrin of its hardware. Menus are slow, navigation between them and through the home screens is sluggish and loading of applications takes considerably longer than you would expect in a fast-pace-give-it-to-me-now world. Its disappointing because it does everything quick well, our movie played wonderfully with no noticeable lag or hiccups during playback, but getting to that point is where the problems lie. For comparisons sake we tried the same thing on a Android 2.3-based Fire and a Android 4.0.4-based Galaxy Nexus, both blew the Premium 8SE away as far as response and quickness.
The Premium 8SE has a lot of potential held back by its hardware, some of which can be attributed to its $169 price point. If you can live with a less-than-speedy alternative to the Fires and Nexus 7′s of the world, the Premium 8SE is an average option that will do what you ask, has the ability to have better software deployed to it, but is incredibly limited in its hardware to reach the full potential you would expect from a device in this day and age. Still, for the price, you can’t go wrong.